First Year Seminar on Scientists from Hartford 2007

First Year Seminar 190
The Mind: Brain, language, and evolution in Hartford


Fall 2007

Current as of December 6, 2007



William M. Mace
Office: Life Sciences 212A
Office Hours: Monday     1:45 pm — 3 pm
Wednesday 1:45 pm — 3 pm
Friday          1:15 pm — 2:30 pm
and by Appointment
Extension: X2343


Caleb Wasser
Residence: 94 Vernon St. [Pike House]
Cell: 203 417-4505

Required Reading

  • From Bookstore
    • Lahiri, Jhumpa The Namesake
    • Carroll, John B. Language, Thought & Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf
    • Hilts, Philip J. Memory’s Ghost
    • Johanson, D. & Edey, M. Lucy

Assignments, Expectations and Grading

You will have a variety of kinds of assignments — article summaries, critical evaluations of articles, and research papers. As you can see, the course is divided into 4 parts, corresponding to the 4 people selected to study. In each part, we will have small exercises along the way. At the end of each section, there will be an integrative essay assignment, and for the end of the course, there will be a longer paper, bringing together all of the topics will be assigned.

What do I emphasize in judging your papers? (1) First and foremost, your use of EVIDENCE and example. (2) Recognizing what you do not understand. What I mean is showing specific things that puzzle you or that you do not understand, in the context of evidence that you are trying. To say “I don’t understand this article” does not count! Identifying points that need explanation or clarification is a sign of effort and comprehension.

Revising Papers

— You may revise papers along the way. The sooner you turn in any revision, the better, but all revisions must be turned in by December 10. A “complete” revision would look like a fairly new paper from you, albeit on the same topic. A “minimal” revision would make specific changes at places that I have marked, and nothing else. You could expect a grade change for a complete revision and very little grade change for a “minimal” revision. For most of you, the most appropriate revision would be something in between these two extremes.

For your continuing edification, there is an article about revising by the author, Nora Ephron, in the Course Documents on Blackboard.

Written Usage in this course

Here I will keep a list of uses and misuses of words that I’d like you to be sensitive to.

  1. The word “impact” as a verb. Please don’t use it. “As a teacher, I want to impact your thinking.” No, please. Say, “I want to have an impact on your thinking.” In most cases, the verb “affect” is the correct word.
  2. Mass and Count nouns — chairs, tables and people are examples of things that can be counted. Water and iron, for example, are not. They refer to mass quantities. One can ask for “some water or “some iron,” but not “some chair” or “some table” in the same way. You can ask for “some tables,” but that is a different meaning. The common misuse is with the word “amount” among others. We now hear people say things like “what amount of minutes do you expect to play in the basketball game?” Correct would be “How many minutes do you expect to play in the basketball game?” Minutes are countable, time is not. On Sept. 10, I heard a radio ad that mentioned a “large amount of rewards.” Bad. In general, the word “amount” gets overused and the word “number” underused.Is the failure to appreciate this a Whorfian point? Is it the thinking of the language that people are missing?
  3. “Exact same.” If things are the same, then they are the same. If you want to refer to gradations, then you use the word “similar” combined with other words. So far as I’m concerned, “exact same” is redundant and you do not need “exact.”
  4. homogeneous” is the word, not “homogenous” — the correct word rhymes with “genius”
  5. Proof — Evidence and argument in science provides SUPPORT or fails to provide support for some proposition, theory, or hypothesis. Proof, per se, is not possible in empirical science. Nothing is ever “proven” or “confirmed.” Support for an idea may be so strong that there is no good competition. There is proof in mathematics. You can prove theorems in mathematics. That comes from logic where the rigorous idea of proof lives.
  6. Asterisk — the end of this word is “risk.” I’m sure you can all say “risk.” The end of the word is NOT “ricks.”
  7. Refute — to refute an argument or a claim is to successfully show that it is wrong. When students use the word “refute,” I think that what they usually intend is “dispute.” That is, if I want to say that a claim or argument is wrong, and I stand up and say, “Sir, you are wrong!” That is todispute the claim. It is only refuted if actually shown to be wrong with argument or evidence. “Refute” is an example of a “success” word.


  • PsychINFO and PsychARTICLES. Connect to these through the Library. PsychINFO is your best gateway to sources broadly related to psychology. You can find a great deal here. The way the links work, this is your most efficient access to references related to psychology. In many cases, direct links to the actual articles are there. Sometimes electronic versions of articles are available to you, but PsychINFO doesn’t immediately reveal that. Then it’s worth a search of the Trinity library. PsychARTICLES gives you direct access to electronic versisons of ALL articles ever written in a scientific journal belonging to the American Psychological Association. Because you won’t know which ones, of hundreds of journals related to psychology, belong to the APA, you are better off starting with PsychINFO. The journals that are in PsychARTICLES will be directly linked for you through PsychINFO. That’s why it is more efficient to begin with PsychINFO.Do you know what the word “journal” means to people in the scholarly world? You might think of them as magazines, but publications that report research results in various disciplines are usually referred to as “journals.”
  • Science and Nature are ambiguous. They publish important research and are journals in that sense, but they were called “magazines” in their titles and printed in styles that look like magazines. Scientific American is a magazine, pure and simple. It is never referred to as a journal.
  • The important scientific journal, Nature, is originally a British journal, but it serves a wide range of disciplines and covers the world. Many think of it as the most prestigious scientific publication in the world. The electronic versions that we have access to go back to 1997. The print versions go back to the very beginning of its publication. Our library has them all. If I ask you to find something in Nature that is earlier than 1997, you will have to find the hard copy in the library. Electronically, through our library, we connect to it directly, not through something else like PsychINFO.
  • The most important scientific journal published in the U.S. is called Science. The entire publication history of Science is available electronically. Like Nature, you connect to it directly. For the past few years, the older volumes of Science were in a great electronic archive called JSTOR (which Trinity links to). Science is changing that. They want to pull out of JSTOR and have all the archives themselves. We’ll have to stay tuned for that change.
  • Tricks — sometimes you will find a reference to a scientific article in a journal that Trinity does not have access to. Many scientists keep archives of their own papers linked to their personal web sites. If you know the institution (college, university, government lab, etc.) and the Department of the author of an article, with the help of Google, you can track down the person’s personal web site. Then hunt for papers there. This does not always yield what you are after, but it succeeds often enough to try.
  • WikipediaWikipedia CAN be very useful, but must be used with GREAT CAUTION. Because anyone can edit articles in Wikipedia, all kinds of things can creep in that are not very helpful. When possible, Wikipedia makes explicit notations, like in — this one. The best use ofWikipedia is to get an overview of a topic and some references to check out. When you cite references in a research paper, you should rarely use a Wikipedia article as a main source, and never without an ok from your instructor or someone who knows the relevant field. Many Wikipediaarticles really are good sources and I would recommend them, but you must never assume it.

Web Sites

Course Work

Schedule of Classes

1 Friday August 31 [9 am] Introduction to Course

2 Tuesday September 4 Read:

  • The Namesake
  • Gogol What else?
  • Whimsical uses of names [this set could go on forever, of course. I list an arbitrary few here. The Wikipedia references are ok because I know the stories from other sources first and know that they can be elaborated using authoritative sources.]Physics paper fun
    Texas fun
    More Texana

Look at the web site list before the daily schedule. Look over the article about proper names.

Thinking about names, culture, and language.

Benjamin Lee Whorf

3 Thursday September 6 Read:

  • Carroll, Introduction
  • Carroll (Whorf), Chapter 5, “An American Indian Model of the Universe
  • Carroll (Whorf), Chapter 6, “A linguistic consideration of thinking in primitive communities.”
We did not get to the discussion of The Namesake, so we’ll do that today.

Saturday, Sept. 8, is “Do it Day.”

The basic story of the relevant parts of Whorf’s career. As part of the background, take note of the Hartford Insurance Company, Whorf’s walk to work, his Wethersfield address, the Hartford Atheneum, and the Watkinson library.

Exercise — Using Google maps or whatever your favorite program is to get maps and directions, make a map of Whorf’s walk to the Atheneum. This will require you to find Whorf’s address in Wethersfield and the address of the Atheneum.

Writing Assignment — Students whose last names begin with A through H summarize Chapter 5.

K-S do Chapter 6

Do your own work. Bring a hard copy of your summary to class and submit an electronic copy before 6 pm today.

Summaries should be no more than 300 words. You should include Whorf’s main points as well as examples to illustrate his reasons for his position. Extra credit for specific bits that you do not understand.

4 Tuesday September 11 Read: Brown, R. & Lenneberg, E. (1954). A study in language and cognition. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 49, 454-462. classic attempt to test Whorf’s idea.

Find the electronic copy through PsychINFO.

I will pick someone in the class to demonstrate on the computer, in class, how you found the article.

Add/Drop Period ends for full-term and first quarter classes. Last day to select the Pass/Low Pass/Fail option for a course.
5 Thursday September 13 Read: Whorf Discussion; Brown & Lenneberg — Munsell Colors
6 Tuesday September 18 Read: Broderick book, Chapters 1, 3, and 5Helpful paper added late: Nice summary of grammar by Paul Bohan Broderick [we have two different Brodericks here] Finish Brown & Lenneberg discussion

Chomsky and modern linguistics. Generative grammar with emphasis on syntax.

Writing: Rewrite your summary of a Whorf chapter, building around Whorf’s examples. I will remove the length restriction, although I don’t expect much over 300 words. AFTER your summary, include an Appendix A. In this Appendix, you are to list what you take to be 5 of the key sentences that most effectively capture what Whorf is trying to say. Appendix B — In Appendix B, list 3 sentences of Whorf’s that say something hard for you to understand. Try to say, as best you can, where the difficulty is for you.

7 Thursday September 20 As mentioned last time : Nice summary of grammar Syntax — Generative grammar
8 Tuesday September 25 Read: Last Whorf chapter in Carroll, “Language, Thought, and Reality.”

The Interpreter

Disappearing languages Short NY Times note of Sept. 23

The Brazilian people with the challenging language.

Roger Wolcott Sperry

9 Thursday September 27 Read:Sperry’s Nobel Prize Autobio

Sperry description on The Brain Connection.

Papers by Horder and Trevarthen — available in “Course Documents” on Blackboard.

Video of split brain patient

Writing Assignment for Whorf Section

Introduction to Sperry’s life and career.

Family Weekend upon us

Tomorrow (Sept. 28) is last day to withdraw from a course for a W instead of an F.

 10 Tuesday October 2 Elaboration of writing assignment — go back to last class and click on the assignment announcement. It is linked to what was in the email to you.

Sperry discussion — consciousness, language, and the split brain. What about computers?

 11 Thursday October 4 Continue Sperry  Whorf writing assignment due
 Tuesday October 9 Trinity Days
 12 Thursday October 11  Watkinson Library visit
 13 Tuesday October 16 Reading — The full Roger Sperry website is here. See Paper #275 under “Publications.”

Gazzaniga 2005 — Find this paper in Course Documents on Blackboard. It is a nice review of later developments in split brain research.

 Discussion of split brains, consciousness, language, with an emphasis on getting more specific.

William Beecher Scoville and “H.M.” [with a little more on split brains too]

 14 Thursday October 18 Reading: Begin Memory’s Ghost.

Scoville Obit

Another Scoville Obit

The NPR broadcast of H.M.

Monday, Oct. 22 is MidTerm

Listen to the H.M. NPR Recording

Watch video of Suzanne Corkin lecture at Trinity.

 15 Tuesday October 23  Reading: Continue Memory’s Ghost Sperry related assignment for next Tuesday

Evening — Memento film with Caleb

 16 Thursday October 25  Read: The New Yorker article about Clive Wearing by Oliver Sacks. It is at the New Yorker link that I sent you by email. Advising week begins Monday (Oct. 29)

Half the class goes to NYC for Oliver Sacks talk

 17 Tuesday October 30 Read: 1. Puccetti target article — found on Blackboard

2. Sperry, Zaidel & Zaidel — Paper #210 in the collection on the Sperry web site linked at Oct. 16 above.

Class presentations and discussion of assigned portions of Puccetti.

Sperry writing topic assigned

 18 Thursday November 1  Read: Memory’s Ghost, Parts I-IV Registration week is Nov. 5 – 12

Class — Last presentations on Puccetti commentary

 19 Tuesday November 6  Read: Complete Memory’s Ghost  Topics:Sperry writing assignment due
20 Thursday November 8 Read: Corkin summary of research up to 2002. Available in Course Documents section of Blackboard.

More H.M. papers now on Blackboard. (1) Hartford Courant article about Scoville and H. M. from 2002. (2) Reprint of original Scoville & Milner (1957).

Look for H.M Writing assignment no later than Tuesday, but hopefully before.

[Class devoted to registration issues]

21 Tuesday November 13 Read: Corkin (2002)

Also available — National Geographic article

Corkin (2002) discussion

HM Writing Assignment

Donald Johanson and “Lucy”

 22 Thursday November 15 Read: Beginning Lucy. Chapters 1 – 4.

Is the word “I” used in the narrative? Who is the “I?” Who wrote the book? Is there something odd going on? What is the most likely explanation?

Johanson’s Becoming Human website

Johanson’s Arizona State Institute of Human Origins

Reviewing the basic story and identifying questions to be alert for, both in terms of how the disciplines work that identify bones and in terms of our particular course.


p. 70 “Eventually it became almost universally recognized that there were only two types of early hominid in South Africa, not five.

“What to name them?”

 23 Tuesday November 20  Read: Lucy. Chapters 5 – 9. Thanksgiving break begins AFTER class

H. M. Writing Assignment Due

 24 Tuesday November 27  Read: Lucy. Chapters 10 – 12
25 Thursday November 29 Read: (1) Lucy. Chapters 13 – 15

(2) pages from the 2006 book, From Lucy to Language — sent to you as attached file.

(3) Courant article about Johanson 1981 visit to Hartford — on the Blackboard site.

 Add/Drop for Spring term begins MondayProf. Schneider from biology will visit to talk about the science of classification, i.e. taxonomy.

Lucy Writing assignment

 26 Tuesday December 4  Read: Lucy. Chapters 16 – End
27 Thursday December 6


Lucy Writing Assignment due (unless you have made an alternate arrangement)

Revisions Due December 10

Final Paper Due December 20